Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Road Of Trials

The question I'm asking myself today is why did I start with this particular mandala?  It seemed to be an endless task of decisions that I wasn't prepared for:   I chose to use hundreds of 1/4" squares of glass, all cut by hand.  Halfway through another process I realized that I didn't have any large sized clear frit.  So I ended up making some myself.  A process that is extremely labor intensive and one that I hadn't done before to such an extent.  I could have just ordered some of the correct sized frit from my glass supplier but, no, I wanted to stay with the momentum of the piece.  Who know where my head would have been at had I waited a week for the shipment.
Original Square

The Road of Trials.  It should be the 'mandala of trials'!  I made a video of the process but Blogger isn't allowing me to upload it.  More research on that I guess.  So here is a little of the progression of the mandala.
Circle has been cut and Fine Glass Powders added in multiple layers

Fired circle and now application of red border element

Detail of red border

Detail of hand-carved dichroic glass on the surface

Dichroic elements around border

The circle expands with hundreds of hand cut squares of slightly transparent white glass.  "Grout" lines filled with a turquoise transparent and opaque frits.

Hand altered dichroic glass cut to fit into the out band of the circle.  This white border will eventually be the lip of the vessel if all goes according to design.

Final layer of large chunk frit that I ended up making.  Very laborious task indeed.

I was able to get my ring saw working this semester so I've had some additional options for cutting.  Up until now I've only been able to cut the glass with a hand-held cutter.  That is fine for 3mm thick glass or less but my mandalas end up being up to 1/2" thick at times.  Almost impossible to cut something that thick with a hand held cutter.  I've done it but usually it didn't work out the way I had intended.

Am finding that a lot of the work I'm doing is experimental for me this time around.  New tools, new methods and new ways of combining techniques.  I am wondering where all the 'spiritual' work is hiding.  It usually makes itself known to me at some point during a mandala creation but this "Road of Trials" was totally in the moment with the materials.  I realize that the spirit is within me and comes out through the work I create whether I'm conscious of it or not at the time it's created.  But this one I felt pretty far from in that arena.

This particular mandala ended up have 7 different firings in the kiln.  
The finished  mandala vessel.  The glass is 3/8" thick and the vessel is almost 12" in diameter.  I was pretty pleased with the result of the piece.  I'd change a few things next time around, mostly within the firing schedules.
I have been reading a few different books this semester on craft, spirituality and creativity.  One of the titles that speaks to me a lot is "A Way Of Working: The Spiritual Dimension of Craft", edited by D.M. Dooling.  It is a collection of eleven interrelated essays exploring the ancient relationship of art, order and craft.  It speaks to the consideration of craft as the paradigm of man's total activity.  A making, a doing, and an act of contemplation, as it refers to man the maker, man the user, man the tool, man the receiver and transmitter of forces of creation much greater than himself.

Where creativity comes from has always been a good question and in this book there are various answers, all of which make sense on one level or another.  How far we've come from ancient times when there was no divorce between art and craft.  A painter was a painter, a sculptor was a sculptor, etc, and the artists were members of a craft guild.  A man was a painter, his work was his way of life and was central to his identity and recognized as his means of centering and discovering himself.  Today I can call myself a glass artist but there is SO much more to that like being a marketing agent, advertiser, seller, etc and my identity gets spread thin! 

Keeping centered as all the other 'jobs' of being an artist come into the forefront is the most difficult aspect of being an artist for me, that and managing time wisely.  To stay open to ideas, keeping the quietness of mind in tact is not easy.  Introversion helps me and I'll disappear for hours at a time if left to my own devices, just to go inside myself and re-energize.  It's quite a balancing act but it all seems to work out in the end.


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